Thursday, September 18, 2014
Just a few days ago I got a package from Zest Tea with a variety of tea flavors as shown in the photo. Zest Tea makes and sells a variety of loose leaf tea blends in biodegradable pyramid bags. Wait, wait, wait...why am I reviewing tea on this blog? Because the teas from Zes Ttea ARE PACKED WITH CAFFEINE! Each bag of tea contains 150 to 155 mg of caffeine which is about the same as a can of Monster, or 2 Red Bulls, or more than a cop of coffee.
I know what your first question will be - "How is this possible? Tea doesn't have that much caffeine." Well, good question and I asked myself the same thing when I first got the teas. You see, Zest Tea adds caffeine to each of the tea blends for that extra boost...that's how. Simple, right?
Next thing I wondered about is if and how the added caffeine affected the taste of the tea. Caffeine in its pure form is very bitter so adding it to a drink gives it a bitter undertone. Many of the earlier energy shots suffered from this problem as it was hard to counteract the bitterness in such a small container. But with tea, you can add sugar, dilute the cup, add lemons, etc. So even if there is bitterness, you can balance it out. OK, enough of this, lets drink!
Earl Grey Black
Zest Tea's Early Grey Black is a blend of South Indian orange flower pekoe black tea, bergamot flavor and caffeine. The loose leaves are very aromatic and do smell like a fine English tea. The steeped tea also has the same fragrant aroma without any odd tones that don't belong.
The flavor? Well...delicious...No, really. I buy a lot of loose leaf earl grey tea and drink at least 2 cups of it every day at work and if you were to put Zest Tea next to a good blend of earl grey, you will not be able to tell which one packs the insane amount of caffeine....at first. Zest Tea does have one tell, which is the slightly dry finish which is an effect of the caffeine.
Other than the slight dry mouth, there are no bitter tones, there are no odd notes, there isn't really anything out of the ordinary and the tea itself is very good. It is way better than the pre-packaged tea you can get at the grocery store. I really, really liked this blend.
Taste - 9.7/10
Blue Lady Black
This tea is a blend of South Indian flower orange pekoe black tea, cornflower petals, hibiscus, orange, lemon, passion fruit and caffeine. The passion fruit, orange and lemon give it an incredible aroma. The moment I opened the bag, the air around me was almost instantly filled with strong fruity notes. It was fantastic
The brewed tea retains some of the fruity aromas, but the hibiscus comes out on top and is more predominant. The flavor of the steeped tea is a little bit different with the pekoe forming the dominant base and the hibiscus/orange combo forming the next most detectable layer. The orange flavor seems to be stackable because after a few sips, it starts to become the dominant flavor right before the finish.
The fruits give the tea a very, very nice finish and you are left with lingering passion fruit, lemon and orange notes. The caffeine gives it the dry mouth feel, but combined with the fruitiness, you are left with a very clean and focused aftertaste. The combination of aroma, taste and finish make this incredibly enjoyable...but I still prefer the simplicity of the Earl Grey.
Taste - 9.5/10
Pomegranate Mojito Green
The Pomegranate Mojito tea is a blend of Young Hyson Chinese tea, peppermint, pomegranate and lime flavor and caffeine. This gives the brewed tea a minty aroma with an earthy undertone. The flavor is very similar and starts off on the earthy side, but quickly transitions to a more minty and refreshing side.
At first the mint and lime notes are subtle, but after a few sips, they become strong and the dominant flavors in the finish and aftertaste. This creates a very pleasant and refreshing aftertaste which combined with the dry mouth effects from the caffeine gives the sensation of freshly brushed teeth.
Though the pomegranate is one of the main flavors, I found that it was a bit too subtle for me and didn't come out until well in the aftertaste when the earthiness and mint have subsided a bit. I frankly don't mind this since I do enjoy the earthy, mint and lime note on their own. However, those expecting a strong pomegranate flavor will be a bit disappointed.
Taste - 9.2/10
Apple Cinnamon Black
The Apple Cinnamon Black tea is a blend of South Indian flower orange pekoe black tea, cinnamon chips, apple pieces, cinnamon flavor, apple flavor and caffeine. The apple aroma is very strong from the moment you open the tin of tea to the moment you finish the tea. The cinnamon is also present and gives the tea a spicy depth and also makes you think about apple pie a bit.
The taste is a little bit different as it starts off with orange pekoe and ends on the apple/cinnamon blend, which lingers well into the aftertaste. The apple is the more dominant of the two, however, the cinnamon is the one that lingers the longest.
I loved the aroma of this tea, however, I thought that the flavor could have been stronger to really make you want to get out of the house and find an apple/cinnamon turnover or an apple pie.
Taste - 8.5/10
The delicious flavors are one thing, but since this is a caffeine blog, I have to be extra critical of the energy effects.
Since this is tea and there is no sugar (OK, I am sure there is a very tiny natural amount) I did not expect a quick jittery boost and did not get one. The effects were a bit delayed, but they started to show themselves after 1/3 of a cup and 20 minutes later.
I started to feel more alert and focused and this lasted for about 20 minutes when the caffeine started to really kick in. I was surprised how energetic I felt at first because I was drinking tea, but then I remembered that there are 150 mg of caffeine in the cup I was holding.
Once the caffeine had fully kicked in, the effects were very similar to a strong cup of coffee or a large can of energy drink, minus most of the jitters. Sure, there was still some jitters from the quantity of caffeine that was coursing through my veins, but it felt more under control. Once the jitters subsided, I felt great - I was energized and still semi-focused. These effects lasted for about 3-4 hours and there was no crash at the end. However, I was a bit sad that I didn't have any of this tea with me at work. Maybe next time I will remember to bring some.
The green tea has slightly less caffeine at around 140 mg per cup, however the effects are very similar once the caffeine has been fully absorbed. One thing I liked better about the green tea were the initial effects - there is less of the jitters.
I loved the entire line of Zest Tea Energy Blends. The teas all felt premium, tasted great and had an impressive and unexpected kick that gives energy drinks and coffee a run for their money. My favorite of the bunch was definitely the Earl Grey with the Blue Lady coming in a close second. If you like tea, but also need that caffeine kick in the morning, I strongly recommend you try Zest Tea.
Cost - $14.95 for a tin of 20
Energy - 8.7/10
Overall - from 17.2/20 to 18.4/20
P.S. Since I don't have any loose leaf tea on this blog to compare Zestea against, the scoring was done against normal tea blends.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
I know that the can label is essentially camo, but the orange makes it really appealing to me for some reason. This is the second Realtree energy drink I have had and this one, believe or not, contains even MORE sugar than the Arctic Ice one I had earlier.
Well with a name like Blaze Orange, what do you think this energy drink tastes like? Yup...orange with a twist of tangerine thrown in at the end. The first couple of sips were very refreshing and felt great as the first beverage of the morning after a night of drinking. However, once the flavor settled, the sweetness came up and stuck around until the very end. Unlike Arctic Ice which was very sweet, this flavor is EXTREMELY sweet. There are 68 grams of sugar in the can, all from high fructose corn syrup. In fact it is so sweet that after a few sips the sweetness overpowers most of the flavor.
The only saving grace is the slightly acidic orange which cuts the sweetness in the aftertaste just a tiny notch down. If it wasn't for that, I think the sweetness will be unbearable.
Like the Arctic Ice, there are 160 mg of caffeine in the can and just like it the rush comes in quick, the jitters are strong and the overall energy is just very rough. If you are using this for outdoor activities, it will work great, however, if you need the energy for concentration, I would suggest to get something else with less sugar and a bit more refined energy delivery method.
Cost - $3
Taste - 7.5/10
Energy - 8/10
Overall - 15.5/20...sooo very sweet
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Realtree, from what I gather, is an outdoors apparel company that is upfront about people licensing the use of the name and brand for whatever reason. As such I found everything from cell phone cases to beard trimmers to even vehicles and boats bearing the Realtree logo and brand. So then I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they also offer energy drinks, but I am. Why? Because there aren't just one or two different generic kinds of the energy drink...there are 7! Unfortunately for me, the WalMart I was at only carried 3 of them at the time, but oh well, better try 3 than none...amirite?
Without reading the label or anything about this drink online, I honestly expected Arctic Ice to be sugar free and have that sharp citrus note with a bit of a peppery burn. Oh boy...I could not have been more wrong. Arctic Ice is blue and tastes like a very, very sweet blue raspberry soda. Like....very, very sweet soda and the label confirmed it, indicating the presence of 56 grams of sugar. I cannot stress enough how sweet this drink is. It is so sweet I had to pause for 5 minutes every 1/3 of the can. A bit of water certainly helped bring the sweetness down a notch. I mean, a can of this stuff is 20% of your recommended daily intake of carbs! I know Coke has a lot of sugar, but it does not taste as sweet as this stuff.
Reading the label, I also discovered that this drink is essentially water, corn syrup, coloring, caffeine and preservatives. Very American if I am being honest.
The one thing this label does not indicate is how much caffeine is in the can, but a short internet search revealed that there are 80 mg of caffeine per serving. Applying some basic math, we get that there are 160 mg of caffeine per can since there are 2 servings. That's actually what I expected since the rule of thumb is 160mg/473 mL.
Since there is so much sugar in this drink, the jitters are strong, come in quick and stay for a loooong time. But once the caffeine kicks, you get that too-much-energy feeling for a few hours and then it dies off. In my case, since I had this first thing in the morning after a good sleep, I experienced a very mild crash that I can probably chalk up to just being tired from lunch.
Cost - $3 from WalMart
Taste - 7/10
Energy - 8/10
Overall - 15/20...very, very sweet with a sugary rush
Monday, August 11, 2014
Remember when Rockstar Punched first came out? It was years ago and you can still find it in the same can at most stores. This was one of the first energy drinks I reviewed on this blog since it was just so easily accessible back then. Well 5-6 years later comes out the zero calorie, zero sugar version. This one is not yet available in Canada and have no idea if there are any plans to make it available here. I found a can at Meijer in Michigan, right next to the Silver Ice I reviewed recently.
The taste is very similar to the original version except a tiny bit less sweet. Don't worry though, if you like your sweetness, there is enough thanks to the artificial sweeteners. The flavor is your typical fruit punch with very hard, if not impossible, to identify individual fruit flavors. It all just blends together.
As expected, the aftertaste carries a lot of the artificial sweetener taste with some of the sweet fruit punch. There is not much more that could be said about this one. I personally was a little disappointed, because after so many years and so many awesome flavors over the years, I thought that Rockstar is going to somehow modify the fruit punch to make it awesome, but it is just plain fruit punch.
Unlike the Silver Ice, which I fell in love with recently, this one has the standard 160 mg of caffeine in the can. Silver Ice had 240 mg! The delivery is very standard for an energy drink of this size and kind - initial , effects are felt within 10-15 minutes of the first few sips, there are very, very mild jitters and then comes the caffeine which lasts about 3-4 hours and finishes without a crash.
Overall, the fruit punch flavor is the same as it was 5-6 years ago, but the energy delivery is a lot smoother thanks to the lack of sugar.
Cost - $2
Taste - 8.2/10
Energy - 8/10
Overall - 16.2/20...same fruit punch flavor as the original version, better energy delivery
Saturday, August 9, 2014
This energy drink is not yet available in Canada and have absolutely no idea when it will come or if it even makes its way here. I got this from a Meijer grocery store somewhere in Michigan for $2.
Citrus...this is totally citrus fruit packed from start to finish. It starts off with a strong and very well executed orange flavor and then moves to a combination of orange, tangerine and lime, each of which are clearly defined. I was blown away by how well each of the flavors was done as it almost reminded me of drinking their freshly squeezed juices. Amazing! The balance was also just right - not too sweet, not too plain, just right.
Wait, the flavor is not the only good part. The aftertaste was suspiciously pleasant. There was very little of the sweetener which is the one thing that stops me from drinking diet drinks. But this energy drink...wow...I couldn't even taste that from the first few sips. Maybe after sip 4 or 5 I started getting that slightly sweet artificial sweetener note.
Overall - very impressed by the Silver Ice.
Amazingly, there are 240 mg of caffeine in the can. Did manufacturers start to pack more caffeine all of the sudden? If they did, great for us and good for them for finding a way to get more of the good stuff without sacrificing the flavor. Remember years ago when the more caffeine you had, the worse the drink tasted? I remember drinking energy drinks with 200 mg of caffeine where you could really taste the bitterness. Well, no more bitterness my friends!
Silver Ice's energy delivery is amazingly smooth for the amount of caffeine there is, however, you will have to pace yourself when consuming it. I felt a clean buzz within 10 minutes of taking the first few sips. I suddenly felt sharper and more focused for 10-15 minutes without any of the jitters. Wow, it was amazing. I don't think I have felt this from such a mass produced drink in a while. After the initial 25 or so minutes, you start to feel a bit more energetic and you really want to get up and run around. Not that I did that, but that's what I wanted to do. The effects last for 4-5 hours and there is no crash at the end.
As I mentioned earlier, pace yourself for the smooth delivery. If you chug this all at once, then you will experience some jitters and be uncomfortably energetic. You have to feed in the caffeine over the course of 25-30 minutes. Get some ice if you want the energy drink to stay cold.
Again, I am very impressed with this drink and I will definitely buy more when I cross the border.
Cost - $2 from Meijer
Taste - 9/10
Energy - 9.5/10
Overall - 18.5/20...clean and well executed taste with a ton of caffeine
Monday, August 4, 2014
It is official, Glaceau released a line of Vitamin Water energy drinks which come in 340 mL containers and in 3 different flavors. For now the release is limited to the US and to certain retailers and luckily I just happened to be in the US the week these were released. I got 6 cans for $12 thanks to Target's 2 for $4 promotion.
Hazy, light orange in color with a veeeeeery weak aroma mango-like/tropical fruit aroma. The taste is bolder and sweeter than the non-carbonated waters with the orange at the start and the mango coming in behind and finishing it off. The flavors seem natural at first when you are drinking, but once you finish, a very generic, fruity flavor sets in the aftertaste alongside artificial sweetener. The artificial sweetener is very sweet and dominant at first but after 20-30 seconds it dies down a bit and you get more of the orange which at this -point tastes like the orange in a super generic carbonated orange soda drink. The mango is also present in the aftertaste but it is far less noticeable.
Overall, not too impressed with this one, but it does feel very refreshing first thing in the morning.
Taste - 7/10
This one threw me off completely. The can is green, but the contents are red. Sure, it is strawberry AND lime flavored, but my brain associates color with the first listed ingredient - strawberry, so I expected the can to be red.
Anyways, once I got past this color issue and took a sip I enjoyed it quite a bit. The strawberry flavor is the dominant one with lime being a close to distant second. The strawberry taste tastes real but because there is artificial sweetener, the overall flavor feels cheapened a little. The lime doesn't also taste that real, but it is those few bursts of fresh strawberries that save this flavor for me. If it wasn't for the strawberry, I wouldn't even consider trying this one again.
This one is better than the Orange Mango, but overall not by much. If there was no artificial sweetener and no lime, I think that this will be a winner.
Taste - 8/10
The taste is on the watery side, but at least what you taste seems real. Individual fruits seem unrecognizable at first, but after a few sips notes of blueberries and blackberries start to emerge here and there. Aside from the few notes, the blend is faceless but it just works well. Sweetness starts to build up mid way through the can and is especially noticeable in the aftertaste.
As with the other flavors, the artificial sweetener here is dominant in the aftertaste but there are some subtle hints of berries that remind you what you just consumed.
This Vitamin Water energy drink starts off great, but half way through the can turns into a sugary, watery mess making it very hard to distinguish individual berry notes. I was so impressed with it at first, but as I kept drinking it got worse and worse. I am not saying that this is a horrible tasting energy drink, but what I am saying is that it is disappointing.
Taste - 6.8/10
There are 80 mg of caffeine in the can and since there are 13 grams of sugar, you get a very mild sugar rush which I believe many may not even notice, especially if you are used to sugary drinks. I felt like I could get some jitters and though I didn't with any of the drinks, I felt like I was on the verge.
The effects kick in within 10-15 minutes and build up over the next 10-15. The actual caffeine high lasts for about 1.5-2 hours and there is no crash at the end. Overall, the delivery is fairly clean which makes up for some of the taste.
Cost - 2 for $4 at Target and probably other retailers
Energy - 6.5/10
Overall - 13.3/20 to 14.5/20...average and not recommended for those who do not like Vitamin Water
Saturday, August 2, 2014
The cost right now is 2 for $5 and you can only get them in 355 mL containers so I would say that this is a pretty good bang for your buck considering that the 250 mL Red Bull retails for around $2.50 - $3 in Canada.
Summer is apparently associated with tropical fruits because this is what you get here. I find this a bit odd because where tropical fruits grow naturally, it is warm all year around so it feels like summer even if it is winter or fall or spring.
But back to the drink. The tropical flavor feels a bit generic but with the added acids and whatever Red Bull base mixture of chemicals was added, the flavor feels much crisper than other tropical energy drinks. For the most parts, the flavor seems like a faceless medley and it is very difficult to identify exact tropical fruits with the exception of tart mango. There are 39 grams of sugar in the can, but again, because of the acids, there is almost no sweet build up and the finish each sip has is relatively clean and crisp.
As I was drinking this Red Bull, I couldn't help but wonder where I have had something similar to this and then it came to me - Red Rain Tropical Mango. This generic brand of energy drinks released a tropical mango version years ago which also came in a yellow can and tasted very similar to this one. Does this make Red Bull the clone now?
As expected, you will find 114 mg of caffeine in this can, which is the standard amount of caffeine Red Bull puts in their cans. The effects are the same as with any other Red Bull - quick sugar rush, followed by medium long period of jitters, followed by a couple of hours (in the case of the larger container) of energy and then a mild crash.
Cost - 2 for $5 at 7-11
Taste - 8.5/10
Energy - 7/10
Overall - 15.5/20...crisp and refreshing, but a clone of Red Rain Tropical Mango